CES Roundup: Microsoft Launches New Products and Services for Consumers

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 9, 2003 — With the world’s largest electronics technology trade show as a backdrop, Microsoft Corp. is highlighting a range of new products and technologies for consumers this week. Along with Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) and a new prototype personal media player platform codenamed “Media2Go,” Microsoft is unveiling Windows Media Player 9 Series, the Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition, new laptop Media Center PCs running Windows XP Media Center Edition, and an exciting new game for Xbox at the 2003 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

Microsoft is also highlighting continued progress and success of many of its cornerstone consumer products. During his Jan. 8 keynote address, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates pointed to the stronger-than-expected sales of Xbox Live, the recent Good Housekeeping Seal earned by MSN 8, and the availability of the first Panasonic DVD players that support the new HighMAT technology as proof that the strong content and innovative technology that Microsoft offers is setting the stage for a new generation of smart consumer devices.

Gateway Media Center PC with Windows XP Media Center Edition. Click image for high-res version.

Microsoft Announces new Windows XP Media Center Edition PCs

HP Media Center PC with Windows XP Media Center Edition. Click image for high-res version.

At CES, Microsoft is announcing the availability of Windows XP Media Center Edition on new laptop Media Center PCs from Toshiba’s Computer Systems Group and Alienware Corporation, and on the Digital Media Center line of home PCs from ViewSonic Corp. Combining the best of computing and entertainment in one package, Windows XP Media Center Edition delivers all the power of Windows XP plus new features for watching TV, managing music, playing DVDs, and more.

The new notebook configurations for the Media Center PC offer the flexibility to enjoy a fully integrated digital entertainment experience on a portable device. In addition, iBuypower Computer and Tagar Systems will join existing Media Center PC manufacturers HP, Gateway, Alienware, Cyberpower, ABS, and Northgate Innovations in offering Media Center PCs. All of these new Media Center PCs will be available in early 2003.

Gates discussed many of the latest Media Center PC developments during his keynote address at CES, emphasizing both the broad range of industry innovations around Windows XP Media Center Edition and the strong acceptance that consumers have shown for Media Center PCs since their debut two months ago.

Windows XP Media Center Edition has received strong consumer response and acclaim from both the media and the computer industry since it premiered October 29, 2002 on HP Media Center PCs. Shortly after its debut, the HP Media Center PC with Windows XP Media Center Edition was recognized by Popular Science in the magazine’s 15 th Annual Best of What’s New as one of the top new products of 2002.

Microsoft Windows Digital Media Division Launches Windows Media Series 9

On Jan. 7, Microsoft announced the final availability of several new digital media technologies. These included the launch of Microsoft Windows Media 9 Series, the digital media platform designed to provide a dramatically improved playback experience, unmatched audio and video quality, and the most comprehensive set of digital media development tools and features. In conjunction with this release, Microsoft has launched a new licensing program for Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series. This program will enable hardware manufacturers and software developers to integrate high quality digital media capabilities into a broader range of their products and platforms.

Windows Media Player 9 Series new Auto Playlists. Click image for high-res version.

For digital media viewing, Microsoft announced the final availability of Windows Media Player 9 Series, the newest version of Microsoft’s digital media player. With more than 100 new features and improvements, Windows Media Player 9 is designed to be faster, more flexible, and easier to use.

And for digital video editing, Microsoft has two new releases. Microsoft announced the availability of Windows Movie Maker 2 for Windows XP, which offers more than 130 new video effects, titles, and transitions to help even novice PC users create high quality home movies. The software company also released Plus! Digital Media Edition, the ultimate photo, music, and movie enhancement pack for Windows XP. Plus! Digital Media Edition delivers new ways to create digital photo albums, share digital music, and more.

Digital media storage is getting more advanced as well. With industry partner Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic), Microsoft announced the availability of the first three Panasonic DVD players to offer built-in support for HighMAT technology. Jointly developed by the two companies, HighMAT is designed to dramatically improve storage and playback of digital photos, music, and video on recordable media such as CD-RW, and significantly improve interoperability of digital media content between PCs and electronic devices such as CD players, car stereos, and DVD players. In addition, 11 companies announced their intent to support the new technology in future products. The companies include Apex Digital, Inc., Creative Labs, Inc., JVC, Matsushita Kotobuki, Aplix, Ahead Software, Inc., BHA Software Corporation, Pinnacle Systems, Inc., Sonic Solutions, Inc., Equator Technologies, Inc., and ESS Technology, Inc. HighMAT is now supported in both the new Windows Media Player 9 Series and the new Windows Movie Maker 2 for Windows XP for CD creation.

MSN 8 Earns the Good Housekeeping Seal

The MSN 8 home page. Click image for high-res version.

Microsoft announced today that MSN 8 has received the Good Housekeeping Seal. This marks the first time in the Seal’s 100-year history that an Internet software product has been recognized by the Good Housekeeping Institute, and is emblematic of the increasingly important role that Internet software plays in the everyday lives of consumers.

My MSN 8 Home Page and Customizable Dashboard. Click image for high-res version.

Launched in October, MSN 8 is the newest, most advanced consumer Internet access software from Microsoft. Built to deliver a better Internet experience, MSN 8 offers a wide range of innovative features, including powerful junk e-mail filters, tools for creating more personal and creative e-mail messages, and simple customization features that make it easy for users to personalize their homepage. MSN 8 also offers flexible parental controls that enable parents to customize restrictions for their children’s Web browsing and communications, along with exclusive Microsoft content and tools such as MSN Learning and Research Plus with Encarta, MSN Money Plus, and MSN Photo Plus.

MSN 8 has garnered widespread critical acclaim. In addition to the Good Housekeeping Seal, which stands as one of the most trusted and recognized consumer symbols in the United States, in recent months MSN 8 has won or tied with competing services in 16 out of 17 head-to-head reviews conducted by other top publications.

MSN 8 is highly visible at CES this year, with the instantly recognizable MSN 8 Human Butterfly Squad making appearances throughout the four-day conference. The MSN 8 Butterflies are offering attendees everything from free MSN 8 shuttle rides to complimentary t-shirts, free massages, and information on how to switch or upgrade to MSN 8.

Xbox Turns in Blockbuster Holiday Season

A screen shot from Midtown Madness 3. Click image for high-res version.

During his CES keynote, Gates unveiled the first of this year’s lineup of new video games for the Xbox console — taking on Los Angeles Laker basketball star Shaquille O’Neal in a head-to-head matchup of Midtown Madness 3.

Slated for release in April,
“Midtown Madness 3”
is the latest version of the highly successful
“Midtown Madness”
series, putting gamers driving skills to the test as they race around the streets of Paris and Washington D.C.

The unveiling of Midtown Madness 3 follows a highly successful holiday season for Xbox. According to the market research firm NPD Group Inc., Xbox achieved its best month of the year for console sales in November. November also marked the seventh straight month in which Xbox sales outpaced sales of the Nintendo GameCube. Xbox Live, the first comprehensive online game arena dedicated to fast-action broadband gaming experiences, also proved to be an instant success. Following its November debut, sales of the Xbox Live Starter Kit not only exceeded Microsofts own expectations; they also outpaced first-month sales of the PlayStation 2’s online gaming Network Adapter by 86 percent.

A strong lineup of more than 200 innovative games also helped fuel the record sales. In November alone, video game players purchased more than 2.4 million Xbox games, with “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell” leading the way. This popular Xbox exclusive sold more than 250,000 units in the last two weeks of November.

A strong lineup of new games for 2003 is expected to drive continued success. Midtown Madness 3 is one of more than 300 Xbox games currently in development. Others include blockbuster sequels like “Halo 2” and “Project Gotham Racing 2.”

Also on the horizon is the debut of Rare’s exclusive games for Xbox and the release of new exclusives from Microsoft publishing partners Tecmo (“Ninja Gaiden”) and LucasArts (“Knights of the Old Republic”).

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